Thursday, July 02, 2015

Ric Flair & Roddy Piper (1981)

I usually don't like to post video that is of such relatively poor video and audio quality, but this is one of my all-time favorite Mid-Altlantic Wrestling TV segments. I was so happy when I came across it on YouTube, I felt as though I was almost obligated to share it here. 

Some perspective:

It is January of 1981. Ric Flair has been a stalwart of the Mid-Atlantic area since 1974 and is a bonafide legend here. Two months ago during Thanksgiving week, he had regained the United States heavyweight championship from Greg Valentine. He is less than 8 months away from winning his first NWA world heavyweight championship. 

Roddy Piper, on the other hand, is relatively new to the Mid-Atlantic area, although he has taken the area by storm. He arrived in the fall of 1980 and won a tournament to fill the vacant NWA TV championship in early November of 1981. He had quickly become the number one heel in the territory. 

The United States championship was the top singles title in the Mid-Atlantic area and had great credibility with fans. In an angle that aired on Mid-Atlantic TV over Christmas, Piper had attacked Flair and NWA official George Scott at a special holiday TV taping at the Dorton Arena in Raleigh, NC. This set up the U.S. title match between Flair and Piper, with Flair happy to put up the title to get a shot at revenge for the bloody beating he had sustained from Piper a month earlier.

On Tuesday night, 1/27/81, in the same Dorton Arena where the Christmas week attack had taken place, Piper got his shot at Flair and made good on his threats to take Flair's title. That next night, Wednesday 1/28/81 in the TV studios of WRAL in Raleigh, Piper was announced as the new U.S. champion and the confrontation you see in the video above took place. 

One of the minor aspects of this segment that I appreciate is an example of how titles were made to have much more importance than they do today. Piper, who was the reigning TV champion when he beat Flair, tried to give Flair the TV title in a condescending manner, feigning sympathy for Flair for no longer having a belt. Flair declines, pointing out to Piper what a prestigious championship it is in its own right, and how if he were fortunate enough to win it one day, then he'd wear it. That masterful little moment by Flair kept the TV title important, too, even though the U.S. title was the thing at issue. 

A wonderfully played out segment, everyone playing their part perfectly, including announcers Bob Caudle and David Crockett. The TV direction was spot-on, too, with a great shot of the foreign object Piper used at Dorton after he had thrown it away (for the second time, as we would learn.)